Comedian Robin Williams with his daughter Zelda, photographed by Arthur Grace in New York City, 1989.
As a press photographer, Grace spent years covering presidents, at the White House and on the road. But the most intriguing personality he ever captured with his lens was the standup comic, actor and family man with whom he shared a three-decade-long friendship.
Arthur Grace was a photographer assigned to cover Robin Williams for Newsweek magazine in 1986, spending a month with him on tour and in San Francisco. Not long after Grace's cover shot hit the newsstands, Williams asked him to stick around and, basically, help document his life.
"We just hit it off," Grace said. "We got along well together and respected each other."
"If you could boil it down, what do you think it was that made the two of you click?" asked correspondent Tracy Smith.
"We were both children!" Grace laughed. "'Cause Robin oftentimes acted like a little kid. And I have a tendency to do the same thing and not take things serious, and be irreverent."
"When he was actually working on tour, he could fall asleep anywhere. We were flying from Blacksburg, Virginia to Chicago on a commuter plane. This is in '86 during the tour. It was like a cigar tube. We hit rough weather, and everybody else is kind of looking around. And he was sound asleep the whole way there."
Robin Williams with his daughter Zelda in San Francisco, 1990.
"In all the time I photographed him, he never once said to me, 'Don't shoot this.' Or 'You can't photograph that,' or 'You've done enough.' Never one time, as long as I knew him, did that ever happen. We just kind of had a balance and knew what was appropriate and what wasn't. And he knew what was a good picture. He was comfortable with me. I was around the family so often and stayed at his house or on vacation or wherever we happened to be. We never had an issue that way at all."
The Williams Family in San Francisco, 1995: Robin, Zak, Zelda, Marsha and Cody.
"He was funny in front of the kids. But they were kids. It was a father-children relationship. Some of his humor they wouldn't get maybe. But he said funny things and did voices, and was very entertaining to them."
Williams decompresses after his performance at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, 1986.
"He was somebody who needed his downtime, needed his quiet time, and took it," Grace said.
"Would he just excuse himself?" asked Smith.
"He wouldn't say anything!" Grace laughed. "Seriously, he would just kind of tune out and stop talking and walk away or sit down. And you just knew that either he's gonna sit there and be quiet and it's time to go, or he'd just walk away and go to his bedroom, or go back to his room in the hotel and keep to himself."
Robin Williams after winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for "Good Will Hunting," a film that was made thanks to Williams' early support. Grace said Robin was euphoric on Oscar Night: "It was otherworldly almost. I was watching in real time somebody live out a dream, if I could put it that way."
It's also an example of Grace capturing moments with point-and-shoot cameras - half of the book is comprised of such images.
"A lot of times when I was with Robin, I didn't have professional equipment. Because when we went out, like on the street in San Francisco or someplace, I'm not gonna have a camera on my shoulder, around my neck. But I have something in my pocket."
Robin Williams, with flowers, thanks the audience at the end of his sold-out show at the Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles, 1986.
"He had a special gift, and everybody took it for granted," said Grace. "And the gift was he could make you laugh and laugh and laugh. And that's rare. And he's giving you the gift by making you laugh. As Robin used to say, 'When people laugh it releases endorphins and that makes you happy.'
"You knew if you were with him, you were gonna have a fun time. You were gonna have a riot. You were gonna laugh like you've never laughed before. It was an incredible experience and something very special that he gave to people. And they appreciated it."
And how will Grace remember Williams? "Oh, the most interesting guy I ever met in my life by far, by far. We shared some incredible times together. And they're not gonna be repeated with anybody else."
"Robin Williams: A Singular Portrait, 1986-2002" by Arthur Grace is published by Counterpoint Press.